Zed “Driver’s Side”

2001-zed-drivers-sideThis was the final single off Zed’s debut album and the last lot of NZ On Air video funding for Zed. Their second album “This Little Empire” had the might and power of Interscope behind it, happily funding fancy American videos for the group.

So perhaps it’s appropriate that Zed’s final video under Universal Music NZ has such a such a recognisibly Auckland location. The lads are playing up in the Kiwi Tavern building in Britomart, right next to the old Britomart parking building, just across the road from the old Britomart carpark building. The carpark – New Zealand’s first municipal carpark building – was demolished in July 2001 shortly after this video was shot, with the long-term redevelopment of Britomart launching soon after.

Anyway, back to the video. After a lost pizza guy gets directions, we find Zed playing in a first floor room of the old pub. It’s all going on like an ordinary music video, but suddenly the music drops away and we cut to a young couple pashing in a car atop the neighbouring parking building. The guy is distracted by the pop-rock he hears floating in the Auckland afternoon and stops the snogging. That’s right – Zed is a boner killer.

The sounds of Zed attracts a decent gathering of attractive young people who just happened to be hanging out at Britomart. It’s kind of a forward projection of the time when Britomart would be appealing enough to lure attractive young people instead of junkies.

The pizza delivery guy shows up and there’s a bit of subtitled humour as the band members mouth instructions to him. There’s more rock, the song ends and the crowd on the street below cheers then walks away.

I feel a bit sad that Zed ran away to America so I won’t have the opportunity to look at their later videos. But never mind – they still had a good run of six videos before moving on to bigger things. And I think that’s a pretty good situation for a NZ On Air-funded artist.

Best bit: the annoyed girlfriend demanded of her distracted boyfriend, “Are you gonna get back in?”

Next… when art and commerce collide.

Zed “Come On Down”

2000-zed-come-on-down“Come on Down” doesn’t really do it for me as a song – it’s a fairly ordinary pop-rock ballad that sounds like one of those Christian pop songs that pretends to be about romance but is secretly about Jesus. But the video is much more interesting.

Much of it is tour footage, capturing Zed during their peak, touring New Zealand and playing to packed out venues full of adoring teen fans. However, the video starts with the band playing amongst snowy mountains, which turns out to be a painted backdrop in a hall.

We also see Zed mucking around on the road. There they running up Baldwin Street in Dunedin, signing autographs, visiting a radio station, and generally just having fun. But the serious tone of the song casts a shadow on all these antics, and it feels like something awful is about to happen.

Awful like artistic black and white footage of the band playing on a beach? The tone of the video is all over the place. It feels like two separate videos that have been edited together – serious Zed meets fun Zed. And each bit cancels out the other, so it ends up feeling really messy.

And then there’s the strange behind-the-scenes shot of the clapperboard with the bottom part blurred out. Did the director and DOP not want their names associated with the video? I still have a lot of affection for Zed, but it’s a strange moment when I’m finding myself with newfound respect for the Feelers’ life-on-tour “Pull the Strings” video.

Best bit: Andy twisting his whiteboy dreads.

Zed “Renegade Fighter”

This is another song and video that I have a disproportionately high level of love for. Even the near daily use of the song in the sports store TV commercials haven’t killed it for me. So come with me into the world of Zed and the “Renegade Fighter” video.

The song starts off with a spooky music-box sound. It’s a dark and stormy night and we’re inside an empty house. Lightening flashes, the Venetian blinds flap and suddenly there’s guitarist Andy with that opening chord. Bassist Ben (who’s doing the vocals on the verses) appears and does an alarmingly sexual slide on his instrument. The chorus kicks in and there’s Nathan in the corridor giving a hearty lip-sync of the chorus. It’s like a curious mash-up of a classic boy band video and a cool but arty rock video.

Second verse has Ben sitting in a perfect boy band pose. The camera stays on him for a straight 25 seconds, even sticking around when the chorus starts with Ben just doing a teen idol stare at the camera.

The band rock out together for the next chorus (nice pacing), then we return to Ben in a room draped with fairy lights, cutting to Andy delivering a few licks on his guitar.

There’s some clever editing in this video, echoing the spooky strobe-like lightning effect. The video isn’t obsessed with making this a pretty pop video, and there are some delightfully weird touches. But then just in case we’d forgotten these were teen dudes, the video ends with Nathan giving Andy a playful punch.

“Renegade Fighter” was Zed’s highest charting single (reaching number four), and I like to think of it as Zed at their absolute peak as kings of teen pop-rock.

Best bit: the patterned wallpaper, looking a bit too authentically New Zealand to be a “Song 2” homage.

Bonus: here’s Zed performing “Renegade Fighter” live, with no shirts on, in front of an audience of adoring, screaming fans. It’s only 1:47 long, probably due to the camera having a fangirl freakout.

Director: Julian Boshier
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… stripped down acoustic styles.

Zed “Glorafilia”

1999-zed-glorafiliaGlorafilia is a pretty young woman who appears to be in a chaste love triangle with Ben and Nathan from Zed. I’m not sure why drummer Adrian doesn’t get to be involved, other than that he’s just the drummer.

The lyrics mention Glorafilia as “tying ribbons in her hair”, which is depicted with an elastic hairband tying up her white-girl dreads, just a bottle of Pantene away from returning to their natural silky state. And speaking of hair, Nathan Zed has bleached his hair for this video. It’s so new there’s no regrowth, so it looks more like albinism.

Anyway, the trio are off to school where we discover them mucking around in the science lab. This is not like Edward and Bella flirting over flatworms – Ben Zed manages to set his bunsen burner alight.

The three of them escape the cruel world of science and head to the beach. The two boys are in the front with Glorafilia lazing in the back of their convertible. Of all the possible seating combinations, this is the safest. Just imagine if it was Glorafilia in the front and the boys in the back. Hilariously, the drummer is following on a motorbike. He has a girl pillion passenger with him because it would be really awkward otherwise. (“Dude, why is the drummer following us alone on his bike?”)

The gang arrive at the beach, chill out in someone’s parents’ fancy beach house, have a singalong down by the shore, then a spot of beach volleyball, and a final campfire singalong. At it’s at the campfire that Glorafilia reaches out and touches Ben on the shoulder. Dude! Duuude! You’re in!

The thing I really like about Zed’s videos is they never try to be more than what Zed are. This is a popular teen band making music for teens and their videos always show that life.

Best bit: the magical paper dart that shows Zed playing.

Director: Scott Cleator
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Zed “I’m Cold”

Here’s the thing – this video is hosted on the YouTube account for Universal Music New Zealand. The description says it’s the “official video”. But it’s not the official video. I think this is just a live performance from Ice TV.

The proper video itself isn’t currently online, though Nga Taonga enticingly describe it as: “Zed begin playing “I’m Cold” at indoor gig before fleeing from itrate barman/ club owner. They resume on city rooftop.” (Director: Scott Cleator, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

But it’s Zed. Zed are strangely growing on me so I feel compelled to properly review this video rather than just throw it in the remainder bin with the other missing videos.

The video starts with some shadow hands announcing that Zed are about to perform on Ice TV. We then meet the band sat in a bare studio, still a three piece, geared up with acoustic instruments. They all look so young and so innocent (polar fleece vest!), and yet there’s Nathan King belting out feelings of emotional numbness. Though he does a little self-conscious eyeroll when he sings “The night is cold and someone’s taken my bed.”

And just when the song threatens to get too moody and too mature, bassist Ben breaks out the rap. It’s a semi-nonsensical ditty (for which I will blame the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and manages to be a delightfully weird counterpoint to Nathan’s big chorus.

So there they were. Three young dudes with a number one album and some decent songs. The only way was up.

Best bit: Nathan’s polar fleece vest – keeps out the cold.

Next… a farewell to the Faction.

Zed “Oh! Daisy”

Oh, hello young Zed. When this song was first released I didn’t like it because it rhymed “cow, yeah” and “go figure”. That’s still an awkward rhyme, but it’s not a terrible song.

Zed look so young in this video, and I think they were still in their final year of high school when this was released. But it’s a good pop tune that makes me wonder if the whole band were just massive music nerds.

The video stars a young man who sits down in a park with “Daisy” magazine (and you can see the ripples where a mock cover has been glued to another mag) and a glitter-encrusted Viewmaster. The magazine contains Viewmaster disks that let him “enter Daisy’s world”. But he soon discovers it’s not just 3D images – he’s actually there.

Daisy’s a manic pixie dream girl, complete with long braids, black lipstick and a giant flower in her hair. She actually looks about 10 years older than the youthful protagonist, which is a little weird. In the Viewmaster virtual reality, the guy hangs out with Daisy and her friends, plays cricket (aw, Christchurch!) and gets a flyer to Daisy’s house party.

While this is all going on Zed are off playing the song. They’re dressed all in sportswear that’s about the same shade of blue. They look young, a little nerdy but with a strange kind of potential. Also, Nathan King had amazing cheekbones.

At the virtual reality party, the young guy is disappointed to see Daisy blowing bubbles at another boy. He’s been making a daisy chain for her, but accidentally treads on it, but just when about to make a move, he runs out of Viewmaster slides. Panic!

But it’s ok – Daisy has become real and joins him in the park. They laugh. They smile. They joke. Yay! But what if another guy buys Daisy magazine? Is she beholden to anyone who puts her disk in their slot?

Best bit: the look of sheer agony when the guy realises he’s crushed the daisy chain.

Director: Scott Cleator
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a bunch of Irish travellers.